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The Seed That Plants Itself Into His Heart

Dave MatthesParadise City begins with Arlo and his best friend peeping into a stripper’s window trying and see what any young boy hopes to see. But what they see instead changes them forever. Do you think there’s a single moment in everyone’s life, maybe not as traumatic, that is life changing?

I hate to think of myself as believing in anything absolute, as if the same sort of scenario happens to everyone in some way or form. However, I do believe that everyone at some point in their life experiences a moment that separates how they were before that moment, and how they live the rest of their lives as a consequence. For me, as I’m sure most people can relate to, it was the day my father passed away. I remember the day itself starting out like any other in the summer. I was with my friends and everything was perfect. Then it happened and I remember the feeling, like everything that I was was switched off like a light switch. And even as it was happening, I knew that everything would be different from then on. With Arlo, in the beginning of Paradise City, he experiences a similar event, but deep down doesn’t know what to make of it. Instead, it sort of numbs him and sets the stage for the climax. At the end of Paradise City, the confrontation with his best friend, that moment is the moment that is the defining “light switch”. At that moment, even Arlo can’t ignore the fact that everything after that day will be different. It’s the seed that plants itself into his heart which spreads its roots deeper into his body and soul throughout the rest of his life. So yeah, I do think that everyone in some way can relate to that sort of change in their life.

In a lot of contemporary coming of age fiction novels authors often add their own life experiences to the story. Are there any bits of you in this story?

Absolutely. Many of the party scenes were directly translated from memory to page, some of the adult characters were based off of some of my friends’ parents, and on a very subtle level, some of the parts involving Arlo’s mother were taken from my own experiences, though not quite in a literal sense. One thing that stands out the most though, is the feeling I think most kids grow up with, the feeling of wanting someone but never being able to have them. And also, I’ll never forget my first experience drinking whiskey. The feeling Arlo gets in the book when he drinks it for the first time… is pretty much exactly how I felt about it, if it could even be put into words.

Lot’s of bad things happen through Paradise City, but it makes you think about what one would do if in that same situation. What do you hope readers take away from the story?

The main theme of The Mire Man Trilogy, at least from my point of view, is being able to live with yourself after having done something excruciatingly horrible; so.. self-forgiveness in a way, and not letting whatever that thing is completely destroy you. In Book 2, being that it is an origin story, the main focus of the story was to give readers the notion that it’s actually okay to remember where you came from, whether it was a good place or bad place. Really, the only way to fill in the blanks of the future is to remember the past, remember how we got to where we are. We’ve all done horrible things, maybe not quite as bad as Arlo, but then again maybe Arlo didn’t really “do” anything. Maybe that something happened TO him. It’s that combination of question and consequence that drives Arlo forward. By the end of Paradise City, Arlo is left with that consequence, and he has no one and nothing to tell him or explain to him why he’s feeling the way he’s feeling. This is what really starts him on his path that leads to how we see him in Book 1- Bar Nights.

When is the third book in the trilogy due out and what will that be about?

Book 3 is titled Return to the Madlands, and the main theme of this final volume, besides the overall arc of self-forgiveness, will be something along the lines of “self-preservation”. Arlo will be confronted with the idea of death, and what happens after this event. Not necessarily to him, but to his memory. He’s lived mostly his entire life not really caring about what other people think of him, and to some extent that’s actually a healthy way to live, but he takes it to unhealthy and dangerous extremes. In Return to the Madlands, he’ll finally sit down with himself and do a little thinking on that matter. The story itself picks up about fifteen or so years after the present day events of Paradise City, and involves a recently deceased loved one imploring Arlo to hit the road one last time and experience life before he gets too old or dying to get that chance again. The twist here, which won’t ruin the reader’s experience, is that this loved one has been hiding something pretty major from Arlo, and only confesses to it after their death via handwritten letter. This leads Arlo to believe that Constance, the main woman from Bar Nights, (whom Arlo in his own way, fell in love with) is still alive and out there in the world waiting for him to come find her. The first big chunk of the story is all about this road trip, this journey to find Constance, and involves Arlo getting stuck or hindered by several bouts of misadventure. The road eventually leads to Nevada, where he runs into his still-alive, and very old and aging father, which sets in motion one hell of a torrential downpour of emotions for Arlo. Obviously I won’t say much more about what happens from there, but there will be a very, very bittersweet flavor of closure by the end. I’m about a hundred-ish pages written into the first draft, and am shooting for a much larger scale page-count with this final volume, not that the size of a book matters, that’s just how much is going to be going on. If my current work schedule is anything to go by, I’ll probably have the first draft finished by Christmas… maybe. I wrote Bar Nights in four months, and Paradise City in six; I may or may not have rushed through them, so I’d like to really take my time with this one.

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Paradise City (The Mire Man Trilogy, #2)Book 2 in “The Mire Man Trilogy”, “Paradise City”, tells the origin of Arlo Smith, and illustrates the first steps on his journey toward becoming the seemingly soulless nothing he is in “Bar Nights”. It is a story that narrates what it’s like to grow up against the grit and torment of youth while under the vengeful weight of inevitability masquerading beneath the guise of well-intentioned promises… and the price of what true friendship can sometimes require.

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Paradise City: The Mire Man Trilogy

Paradise City (The Mire Man Trilogy, #2)4 StarsParadise City by Dave Matthes is the second book in his Mire Man Trilogy. The story goes back twenty years to Arlo Smith’s teens, a time of many firsts for him. The story opens with Arlo and his best friend, James Landon, skulking through the woods in order to peep into a local stripper’s window, trying to see what any puberty-addled boy hopes to see. What they see and experience there is a first that changes them, their friendship and perhaps, their lives.

High school isn’t fun for everyone. Arlo and James’ freshman year pulls them apart, and while they remain friends, they meet new people, experience first love, infatuation, and learn the pleasure and pain of drinking and smoking weed. Arlo’s mother introduces him to a parade of boyfriends who drag him into a world of alcoholism, and abuse. Through it all, Arlo learns that he can write, his teachers think he’s good at it, but it isn’t enough to keep him from the lure of drinking and brawling.

If you’re going into this book expecting an uplifting coming-of-age story, you will be sadly disappointed. Paradise City is a dark, no-bull look into the brutal world that Arlo grew up in. His mother’s boyfriend uses him as a punching bag, his best buddy is a drug dealer, and he has nowhere to turn to except for the booze he steals from home or gets at parties every chance he gets.

Interludes from Arlo’s adult life are interspersed within the novel. He’s getting treatment at the Moriarty Institute, where he admitted himself for psychiatric care. This adds insight and ties Arlo’s past and present together. Whatever confession his doctor hopes to get out of him might be something from his past, or it could just be the ramblings of a man with mental illness.

The author really nails the emotions and reasoning of a teenaged boy. Arlo’s thoughts and decisions are spot-on for a teen. No one but his guidance counselor seems to care one way or another about his future. The counselor has good intentions and Arlo is infatuated with her; she speaks to him like he’s an adult, but she’s not that much older than he is. Their relationship skirts the line between propriety and danger more than once.

One of the problems I had with the book was placing it in a time period. I’m not sure if it’s inconsistency, or if it’s intentional. Music has a role in the story, and all of the songs and bands mentioned are from the late 1970’s. In one scene, there’s a reference to a flat-screen monitor for a computer playing music, but later, in the same office, the music is playing on a record player. The students at the school don’t mention cell phones or social media, yet Arlo has a cell phone. The pop culture references are from late twentieth century, yet the few mentions of technology feel like the twenty-first.

Though it’s second in a series, Paradise City holds up on its own. While you don’t need to have read the first book, if you start with this one, you’ll certainly want to go back to book one and catch up before the final installment of the trilogy.

Pages: 250 | ISBN: 1512223530

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